Juthamas gets 50 years in film festival bribery case

Former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan and her daughter (not in picture) are taken to Klong Prem prison from the Criminal Court on Wednesday. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan was sentenced to 50 years in prison and her daughter to 44 years on Wednesday in the long-running film festival bribery case.

The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases also ordered confiscation of the 62 million baht in bribes they received.

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) indicted Ms Juthamas, 70, and her daughter Jittisopha Siriwan, 43, in the court on Aug 25, 2015.

The indictment was on the recommendation of a joint panel of the OAG and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) set up to look into the case.

The joint panel found that Ms Juthamas had violated sections 6 and 11 of the law governing offences committed by state organisations or officials and Section 12 of the law governing tenders to state agencies. The agency also accused Ms Jittisopha of aiding her mother in committing the offences.

The lawsuit filed by the OAG charged Ms Juthamas with demanding a bribe from an American couple, Gerald and Patricia Green, in exchange for them being awarded a 60-million-baht contract to host the annual Bangkok International Film Festival between 2002 and 2007.

Ms Jittisopha helped her mother to commit the offences by opening accounts in many foreign banks and the American couple transferred US$1.8 million into these accounts.

The court found Ms Juthamas and Ms Jittisopha guilty as charged.

The court initially sentenced Ms Juthamas to a total of 66 years imprisonment. However, the sentence was limited to 50 years under Section 91 (3) of the Criminal Code.

Ms Jittisopha was handed 44 years imprisonment.

The court also ordered the $1.8 million (about 62.7 million baht) confiscated.

Accompanied by their lawyer Thanakorn Waekwaree, Ms Juthamas and Ms Jittisopha appeared at the court on Wednesday morning for the ruling.

Afterwards, the lawyer filed a request for their release on bail, offring a surety of one million baht each, pending appeal.

Nikorn Tassaro, deputy chief justice of the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, said that since the offences committed by the two were serious, carrying heavy penalties, they were seen as a flight risk if released on bail.

The court therefore forwarded the bail request to the Appeal Court for consideration and a decision.